Locks for chests and boxes


This article examines various types of locks for boxes or chests. Ever since the Viking era (the 9th to the 11th centuries), chests and small boxes have been important personal storage places in all levels of Swedish society – from the common people to the royal families. Locks made storage more secure.

However, such things were in use long before the Viking era. When Tutankhamun’s grave was opened in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in 1923, five thousand objects were uncovered, including not only the chests of the royal sarcophagus, but also a number of small wooden chests. They were neatly arranged along the walls, in varying sizes, painted and carved, and had arched and flat lids. The chests had preserved their contents for over 3,300 years.

Back in Sweden, not until 2,000 years later did it become common for people to store their belongings in chests and boxes. Chests served as the family’s closets and cupboards, holding clothing and household utensils, while more valuable items were stored in boxes.

In the 16th century, cupboards, complete with doors and interior shelves, began to replace chests. By the end of the 19th century, thanks to the popularity of dressers with lockable drawers, chests were often relegated to what we would consider a sorry existence.

Lockable boxes, on the other hand, continued on into own time to acquire new areas of use, as metal cash boxes, sewing boxes, pen cases, lunchboxes, bread boxes, sugar boxes, tea caddies (made of wood with a metal insert), tobacco tins and cigar boxes.